Xu Chengwei, Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University, in Lianhe Zaobao (March 15, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: cattan2011)
According to the World Bank, Singapore’s birth rate has declined over the past 30 years and now stands at 1.1, far below that of the population replacement rate of 2.1. There are many reasons for this, which have to do with all aspects of our social environment and work culture. If Singapore’s birth rate is to be increase, scholars and policymakers should discuss the real difficulties faced by families with children and assess the root causes of the reluctance to raise kids.
The following issues should be addressed to encourage young people to have children:
First, the government should continue to subsidize families with children. Although the state already provides generous childcare allowances, there is still room for improvement when compared to other countries such as Canada. Policymakers should conduct detailed household surveys to assess better the childcare burden of the average family.
Second, the government should evaluate and improve existing childcare facilities. Examples of measures include establishing passenger compartments for women on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and encouraging workplaces to offer maternity rooms with refrigerators for milk storage.
Third, the government should evaluate whether to extend maternity leave, while giving fathers longer paternity leave. Current leave allowances for fathers are low and prevent them from supporting the mother at critical times. In addition, wages during maternity leave should be shared by the company and the government.
Finally, there should be a new holiday and sick leave allowance for maternity check-ups. At present, pregnant women can only use their ordinary sick leave (around 14 days).
Failing to address the declining birth rate will have profound negative impact on Singapore’s economy, society and culture.